Sunday, July 5, 2015

Power boat tour

A different view than on Kintala
We have been on the hard for more than 50 days. Work on Kintala is progressing just fine and we certainly hope to have her back in the water way before 50 more days pass. Still, watching a boat pull away from the dock for an evening or weekend sail will spark a moment's jealousy. So when Derek, son of the marina owner, invited us on an evening boat ride to see the race fleet last Wednesday we jumped at the chance to get off the land for a bit.

The family has two boats floating in slips here. One is an abandoned sailboat that they ended up with and did a ton of work to. It is a beautiful little cabin boat now, one that would make any owner proud.

The other is a Boston Whaler center console power boat. This one also came needing a ton of work. Since they were at it anyway,  a new 6 cylinder Mercury (4.3 liter?) was shoehorned in place. This current boat replaced a slightly larger version of the Boston Whaler the family once owned. Derick's story was that that boat had also enjoyed a major engine upgrade. An upgrade which put a little more raw power into the hull than the hull was really built to handle. Eventually it was sold to another person who understood that, when it comes to internal combustion used to make something go fast, there is no such thing as too much horsepower.

There is much to be said for working on one's own boat in a yard where the owner and his crew routinely do such things.
Anyway...Derek has a choice of sail or power. Since the Whaler had not been out much yet this year, he elected to give it a chance to breathe a little. My rides on powerboats have been few. Back on Carlyle there was one ride on a jet ski, one ride on a pontoon boat, and one on a little blue open bowed boat of indeterminate power. That's it. I told Derek I had never really been on a powerboat before, which might not have been entirely true. But it was close.

We motored down the creek at a sedate “NO WAKE” pace. I even took the helm for a minute or two while Derek searched for the key to unlock the cover over the navigation boxes. These being his home waters there was no real need for the GPS. Since the boat was powered up anyway it seemed a good idea to warm up the electronics as well. Once on the Bay he turned to port, instantly putting us in waters we have seen but never sailed. Up ahead was the Frances Scott Key bridge. Just beyond it lay a marker that notes the point where, on the night of September 12 – 14, 1812 the HMS Tonnant, with Francis Scott Key aboard to negotiate a prisoner exchange, sat during the siege of Fort McHenry. Later Key wrote the poem “Defence of Fort M'Henry” describing his experience of that battle. A poem that became the National Anthem of these United States. It was a pretty cool tour near the Fourth of July Holiday.
Fort McHenry

Just south of the Bridge is the tiny spit of a man-made island, Fort Carroll. It was never really finished and, it seems, was never much of a Fort. In 1958 an attorney bought it with the idea of building a casino. Those plans never worked out and now the Island is overgrown with trees, home to uncounted birds, and still surrounded by a wall. It is a sure bet the adventuresome still visit the place. I know I would have, had I grown up anywhere around here and had access to a boat.  The closest we got was a slow motor around the place while Derek told stories of it being a stash point for an enterprising marina thief a few years ago.

Tour over, Derek turned the bow back toward White Rocks and gave the Merc free reign. We flew across the water at nearly 40 mph. Which was okay...sort of. Well, actually, it wasn't my favorite part of the ride. There is something about a power boat going fast, pounding against the waves, that strikes me as a protest. A motorcycle going fast flows along the road. An airplane going fast, down low, is pure magic. The Z-car at full song well, sang.

A power boat going fast is just a beating, a bit like a motocross bike. (Which is why I never spent much time in the dirt.) Still, to each his own, and we certainly enjoyed our evening on the water, a good look at the sailboat fleet, and one of the more interesting historical tours we have taken in a while. And I have certainly been on a power boat now.

Thanks Derek.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

It started as a little light project

One of the big differences between older sailboats and newer sailboats is that the new ones are much brighter inside. Our Tartan is a bit cave like. She isn't as dim and shadow encrusted as other older boats I have been on, but there is no mistaking our interior for something light and bright and airy. There is a pretty cool and hi-tech fix for chasing away darkness, LED strip lights. Since adding some interior wattage is on the list and as it is raining in these parts yet again, an inside job was just the ticket for both keeping busy and getting us that much closer to going back in the water.

Hi-tech LED lights are pretty easy things to add. Use the sticky on the magic rope of light to mount it where it needs to be, then run a couple of wires. It is that “running a couple of wires” bit that can be make the job less easy. It turned out getting to where the wiring needed to go to chase the shadows away from the port side of the cabin above the pilot berth, meant getting behind the overhead panel. That involved taking out five trim strips, two panels, (not including the overhead) one shelf, one 110V electrical box, the wood trim box built to hold that box, the cover panel over for the chain plate, and two of the mount strips for that panel. None of that was obvious when the first screw was removed to take off the single panel that looked like it would get the job done.

I used to think that aviation had a lock on the world's sadists when it came to designing interiors. I was wrong!

Another difference between older and newer boats in interior space and storage. For a 42 foot boat Kintala comes up short on both. A big interior space waster is that pilot berth on the port side. That is one of the five – count 'em, five! – berths that came with the boat. Throw in the starboard side settee and the fact that two of the berths will hold two, and Kintala came from the factory equipped to sleep eight. She also came with a single head.

Eight people.

One head.

That morning traffic jam would make any commuter in any large city feel like they had the road to themselves. The accumulated morning breath of those huddled outside the head door waiting their turn would, all by itself, peel the finish off the walls. Additional odoriferous contributions by those waiting their turn at the facility are too horrible to even contemplate. The marine interior designer for this boat was a sadist on multiple levels, setting a new low for depravity.

Even I am not crazy enough to invite 7 other people to overnight in 400 square feet of living space with a single head. Long ago, the starboard side quarter berth in the aft cabin went away to make room for work shop / storage area. In addition, the pilot berth in the cabin was modified to make room for a storage area under it, one that fits rolls of fabric Deb uses to create things that makes our life aboard that much easier. 

Pilot Berth Stage 1. Upper shelf construction to commence shortly
Even with that mod, the berth quickly became a landing zone for things tossed, the mattress piled higher and deeper with stuff that just couldn't find a home anywhere else. Thus the port side of our cabin is an OCD nightmare, prone to spilling things across the salon when the boat heels, and a dark little cave all of its own. We have long been planning a serious modification to that area, making it a real and secure storage place, as well as making room for a tidy charging station for lap tops, phones, iPads, etc.   

Adding the LED wiring had that area of the interior shedding parts like a dog shaking off water. The remodeling was on this summer's list anyway. And I didn't want to take it apart twice. So the light project quickly morphed into a major interior modification.

Some day, I swear, this boat will be ready to go cruising.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Kindle version of How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat is live!

(Ed Note: Sorry for the technical nature of this post. Ignore if you have no interest in how Kindle books come to your screen.)
If you ever thought you might want to write a book and then turn it into a Kindle prepared for a bit of a nightmare. we originally did the book, I uploaded the file to the Kindle converter that Amazon offers and the results were, well - how do I say this diplomatically - less than satisfactory. I was sort of surprised since uploading my previous children's book to Kindle went so well. I contacted a friend of ours who had recently published a novel in the same Kindle platform to ask about his experience. He indicated that he had very little trouble. His book was a straight novel with very little formatting other than chapter titles and paragraphs, but our book was full of tables, lists, graphics, and footnotes, and those were causing a world of formatting issues since Kindle doesn't support tables.

I posted in forums, asking what others were doing and began to experiment with the various programs they suggested. The results went from less than satisfactory to just downright bad. I would get it looking good in one version of Kindle and it would look terrible in another. Frustration ensued, and, all the while, comments were pouring in from our Facebook pages asking when the Kindle version would be available.

One forum member suggested that the only way to solve the issue was to strip the original document of all formatting, save it as text, and begin the arduous task of formatting it in HTML code, a process that I'm all too familiar with due to my last marketing job.

You see, Kindle books are not like paper books in many more ways than you think. They have no page structure and no page numbering. The book is one continuous document with the exception of page breaks at the head of each chapter which force the Kindle reader to a clean, next screen. They also don't recognize the carriage return that you use to end a paragraph when you're writing a typical Word document, so each paragraph must be enclosed in a <p> tag. All the bold, all the italics, all the footnotes, all the chapter headings and subheadings are lost into one giant jumble of text and need to be enclosed in tags. All of the websites mentioned in the paper copy would need linked to their web pages in the Kindle copy. There were a lot of links in the manuscript. One hundred and thirty-eight pages of our print book would take a substantial amount of time to code. I had the skills, but with the boat on the hard and projects begging for attention, I was less than enthused.

One forum member said that he had good luck with a program called KindleWriter2, a program designed to input the code quickly through the use of a toolbar with all of the codes Kindle accepts (and they don't accept very many). I went to the site and saw that they had a 30-day free trial so I downloaded it. In short order I had my text imported and most of the formatting done. There were a few wrinkles, for sure, most of them involving the Table of Contents which becomes linkable in the Kindle, but an email to the author resolved those quickly. It took a week from the day of download to the day of publish, but a good bit of that time was fixing errors in my original manuscript that had been missed, and in converting tables to lists, and in sizing graphics. I also took time to fix the original paper manuscript errors and to send them in for revision, something you can do with Amazon since they print on demand as the book is ordered.

The Kindle version went live this morning and I am one happy camper. So, if you're thinking about selling everything and buying a cruising boat and sailing off into the wild blue yonder, we'd love to see you buy the book. If you already bought the paper version and would like the Kindle one as well, you can get one at a greatly reduced price through the Book Match program on Amazon. Whichever version you buy, the dollars will be well spent, I promise you, and may save you a ton of money and heartache down the road. If you like the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon because the reviews help our sales and we're trying very hard not to have to park the boat and go back to work. We'd also love to hear your comments here on the blog after you've read the book. Just go easy on us - we're very tired writers.

So now, if it's OK with everyone, I'm going to take a little writing break before I start on the next children's book. And while I'm reading on my Kindle, I think I'll be a lot slower to criticize an author for spelling or grammar errors because I know the nightmare they went through.

(Ed Note: In the continuing saga, it seems Amazon somehow unlinked the Kindle version to the print version so the Kindle version only comes up in the search if you specifically choose the Kindle Store in the dropdown menu. They are in the process of fixing it.)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A day in the rain

 Saturday, and it is supposed to rain all day. Normally that would prompt a touch of the blues, maybe a groan or two, from the deck monkey of Kintala. Rain will forestall outside work. Lack of parts has inside work stopped as well. We don't own a car for getting parts, and there is nowhere nearby to walk to for shopping, loafing, or eating ice cream. Oak Harbor is a great marina / boatyard, but it isn't like other marinas I have known. At our lake Carlyle sailing home of Boulder, weekends are when the clan gathers for fun, sailing, and parties. But a boatyard closes down for the weekends, and there are very few weekend sailors that hang around here. Here, the Wednesday night race series is the social focal point; weekends this place is like a ghost town. A ghost town in the rain, with very few people around, no club house, and no place else to go. We are sitting on the hard, surrounded by wet sand that gets tracked everywhere, not a palm tree, beach, or dolphin in sight. Not exactly living large on a yacht.

Daughters and families are far away. Our resent visit still fresh in my mind, the distance still a little heavy on my heart. Yet with all that I am a contented camper. There will be no real work accomplished today, no project to start, struggle with, or finish up. There will see some reading done, some writing, and I have already watched the cracking MotoGP race that was run early this morning (East Coast Time) at the Motul TT Assen.

Back in my old life a day off usually meant a day spent being very busy doing other stuff. The good news was that days off came on a regular bases, and we always kept track of when they were nigh. In this life, days off are rare. Not that big of a surprise since we often don't know what day it is. Not what day of the week, not what day of the month, sometimes we are not particularly positive just what month it is. Virtually every day something needs done on the boat. Weather and equipment failures can, and often do, change a restful day into a busy one, and a busy day into very hectic one indeed. Days under way fall into their very own category of existence, having nothing in common with everyday land living's categories of busy or bored, rested or exhausted, even well fed or hungry.

So today is a day in the rain, with nothing much to do, and that is going to be just fine with me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The value of a thing

I take it as a given that people are generally undervalued, and things generally over valued. It is hard to tell when or where such an insidious inversion of value gets started, but there is evidence of it all around. It starts early. A child breaks a dish or spills a glass. The next thing that often happens is they get disciplined as if they did something wrong. A harsh word, a bit of yelling, maybe something more. At that moment the “thing” has more value than the kid.

Relationships are often sacrificed to things, people simply refusing to let go of something they hold dear, even at the cost of harming another. All of us have been victims. All of us have been perpetrators.

Often, the longer we hold onto a thing, the more value we think it has. In our minds the thing gets filled with history, memories, and emotions. It has become a talisman, its value far surpassing any original price tag. Usually being attached to such a talisman is harmless, filling the background of a life with fondness and a subtle joy. Items like a grandfather's pocket knife or a mother's wedding ring become something that could never be sold, partly because no one would ever meet the asking price. It is good that most such talismans are small and portable. They get left behind only when we shuffle off to whatever comes “after”. The next generation gets to struggle over the value.

Sometimes items bigger, less portable, and less worthy also become talismans. Items like houses, cars, and furniture. Items that cruisers often need to leave behind. Items whose selling price will help fund the kitty. And items that often seem much more valuable to the those doing the selling than to anyone who might be buying.

Deb and I sold just about everything we had to make it to this cruising life. The three big items were the house, the Z-car, and the motorcycle. There were smaller items sold as well, riding gear, tools, bits of this, pieces of that. We would have sold more of those kinds of things but we ran out of time. Selling things is labor intensive so, if you are heading this way, start selling early. It will take much longer than you think and, if our experience is indicative of “normal”, you will get far less than you believe the things are worth. It can be discouraging, discovering the things we value have less value than we thought.

But the truth is that meaning has value. Memories have value. Experiences have value. The best any thing can do is reflect the value of the meaning it helps one discover, the memories it helps one form, or the experiences it allows one to have. After those tasks are done, the thing has no value at all.

Getting close to home

After a bit more than a month, followed by a two day road trip with Friends Nancy and David, Kintala and her crew are reunited. We are not quite home, not yet. Our Tartan still sits on the hard. We will not be truly home until she is floating once again. But there are boats all around us and water that leads to the ocean is within sight. We are close. After the week that has passed being close is better than being far away.

Deb and I were in Charleston just a couple of months ago and enjoyed a walking tour of the historic downtown district. The area was full of families holding little hands or pushing strollers. Grandparents walked with grand kids, Dads carried babies in back backs, and Moms fussed over hats and sunscreen. There were Black faces, White faces, Asian Faces, hijabs, yarmulkes, dastars, and cowboy hats. The Waterfront Park was graced with a wedding party and filled with languages from all over the world. At one point we were within sight of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. None suspected the outrage of hate and evil that was lurking so close in space and time. Just a few blocks. Just a few weeks.

Nine people were gunned down in a church during a bible study / prayer meeting, murdered by a young man who sat with them for an hour before opening fire on people who had welcomed him into their church. Yet the same old debates go on over guns, race, and religion. The expected groups take up the expected sides, say the expected things, make the expected accusations, and hide behind the expected excuses. A theater full of families, a school full of children, and now a church full of worshipers. How can there be nothing new to say, with no real debate that this isn't normal, or that we can't long survive if this is the best we can do?

There is a tiny chance that the Confederate flag will be removed from its place of honor in SC. That it flew tall and arrogant while other symbols, including the American flag, were lowered to half staff in respect, strikes me as a particularly hideous insult to human beings everywhere. But even a hideous insult is nothing in comparison to such an act of savagery. My first thought was what does or doesn't happen to the Confederate flag in SC will have little meaning. But maybe something unexpected will happen.

Perhaps we have finally touched our nadir, reached our lowest point as a society, and will begin to wrestle with what we have become. Retiring a flag symbolic of those who fought a war in an effort to keep their slaves, even just talking seriously of retiring it, could be the first whisper of something new to say, the first pebble in an building avalanche of change. The definition of “neighbor” could become more inclusive rather than less. Circles of friends could grow rather than shrink. Political divides could be lowered rather than raised. America could react with courage rather than fear, compassion rather than hatred, look for enlightenment rather than react with tribalism.

Instead of trying to claim that “we” are the victims (including openly racist organizations who are afraid this most recent act of terrorism will put them in a bad light, proving that irony has no limits) we will look to and honor the real victims. Maybe we will see them as our neighbors and include them in our circle of friends. We could expect – even demand – that the political system react responsibly, intelligently, and with a bit of humility. (Okay, that last one is probably years beyond our reach. The last influences of a failed generation – mine – will have to fade away first.)

Even the darkest of corners is still a corner, a place that forces a change of direction. It may even be too dark to see the change of heading, but it happens nonetheless. Deep inside most of our mythology is the idea of a “remnant”, those who survived to carry on toward a better future regardless of current failures and disasters. Maybe they are just those who got to the corner first and and managed to followed it onto a new, if still hidden, path.

I like to think that some are already taking up a new way, having already discovered a corner needs be turned. Moving onto a boat, experiencing the world in a way unknown to most who live inside the boarders of the US, was just such a corner for us. Others find different ways to move away from the darkness. Chances are, if you are reading this blog, (and my rantings haven't driven you mad) you are doing the same, in your own way, and in your own time.

We are close to home. We are surrounded by boats, and water that leads to the ocean is within sight.